Message from the Artistic Director about Dinner With Friends
What I love about this play is how very sneaky it is. On the surface, the premise is simple: two couples, one trying to break up and the other trying to stay together. They eat, they drink, they laugh, they cry. Some things will change, and some things will stay the same. End of story, right? Yes, on one level, these are the events of the play. But if that's all there is, then why do we leave the theatre feeling so deeply unsettled?
For me, that feeling is the result of how strongly Donald taps into our deepest fears about relationships. Being in a relationship is inherently risky, as we put our hearts on the line with the very real possibility that they will be broken. It's scary, so we feel better and more confident about our own pairings when we see other couples going through the same things. From declarations of love to marriage to children, it's comforting to travel the path side by side with not only your own partner, but with a whole other parallel pair.
This is what we see in Dinner with Friends - the need for Karen and Gabe to move through life with Beth and Tom beside them. But when one of these couples heads in a new direction, it throws the other off track in a way that catches them completely off guard. And it's this moment when the play really sneaks up on you: the moment that you realize you will never know what another couple is like when they're alone together, that you can never really understand their relationship. How they behave at a casual dinner party may make you believe that you're all on the same page, but what happens when the dishes are washed, the public faces put away, and each is back in their own private world?
This discovery can very easily spiral into an even more frightening realization: if you can't truly know another couple, can you truly know your own partner? Being in a relationship requires a great deal of trust - you can only ever have access to the person in front of you, but you'll never see into their head and know what they're really thinking. You just have to have faith that what they say is what they mean. That's another scary proposition, and once a seed of doubt about a relationship has been planted, can it ever be removed?
I think this is why Dinner with Friends has such resonance with audiences, and why I wanted to give the play its first New York revival. We root for these characters to find their happiness, and we root passionately for them. We do this because they are so real, so incredibly accessible, and so terrifyingly close to us. To hope for their happy ending is to hope for our own.
I hope you'll be as drawn into the world of this play as I am. I will, as always, be eager to hear your thoughts and reactions, so please share them with me by firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback is always welcome and is something that I greatly value.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
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